The most surprising copyrights and trademarks

Reported by Nick Pearson, ninemsn
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Martin Luther King. (AAP)

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Mark BourisMyths bustedHome loans can seem a bit complicated and overwhelming. But it doesn't have to be. Mark Bouris clears up some common misconceptions.

With a $2 billion cheque in their hands, Sony is anxiously awaiting approval from the European Union to buy the publishing arm of EMI Music. If successful, the Japanese electronics titan will own the rights to recordings of Rihanna, Amy Winehouse and Regina Spektor, as well as one thing most of us never expected to be copyrighted.

Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" is regarded as one of the most important and inspiring speeches of the 20th century. But while King dreamed of being "free at last", his words are anything but free. To use the audio or even the text of the speech, British company EMI will expect to be paid. Hard to find online, the full speech is legally available on a $20 DVD.

But the speech is not the only thing that we take for granted. There are countless other copyrights and trademarks that we never thought would exist.

Happy Birthday To You

The most recognised song in the English language, Happy Birthday to you first appeared in print in 1912, but for the past 22 years the tune has been the property of Warner Chappell. The company asked for $10,000 for the song to be used in the film The Corporation, its makers said. The hefty asking price means most movies and television shows skirt around the song in birthday scenes.

Frisbee

While most variations of the plastic toys brand it as a flying disc, the commonly used term "frisbee" is actually trademarked to the Wham-O toy company. Originally called the "Pluto Platter", sales took off in 1959 under its now common moniker. Wham-O also owns the trademark to the Hacky Sack, the Slip 'n Slide and Boogie boards.

The colour purple

The colour purple may be commonly associated by Cadbury chocolate, but we didn't really expect the company to make it official. Despite opposition from rival confectioners Nestlé, the British business was able to copyright the colour Pantone 2865c. The limit only applies to chocolate and drinks though, and an exemption allows Nestlé to continue selling its Quality Street sweets under its purple branding.

The Eiffel Tower

Perhaps the world's most famous structure, the Eiffel Tower has long been considered public domain. However, a 1990 ruling allowed for the lighting design illuminating the tower to be copyrighted. This means that it is now illegal in France to publish contemporary photos of the Eiffel Tower at night, without permission from the Société nouvelle d'exploitation de la tour Eiffel.

Trademark erosion

Sometimes product names become victims of their own success, entering into common usage to such an extent that they cease to be trademarks. Trademark erosion has seen the legal protection disappear from a number of popular products. It may be hard to believe now, but there were times when words like escalator, butterscotch, kerosene, yo-yo and zipper were trademarked. German pharmaceutical company Bayer coined and trademarked the words aspirin and heroin before they were lost to common usage. Though they are probably glad to have lost the association to the latter.

23/07/2014 17:48Sydney, Australia. 23 July,2014
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